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Midwest Flooding Disaster Continues as More Levees are Breached; Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to Campaign Together; Fire in Miami Beach, Florida

Aired June 20, 2008 - 10:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SCOTT MCCLELLAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We came to an agreement on it. But in terms of the ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since it's a contradiction --

MCCLELLAN: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's culture, that was something that we all discussed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And who is the "we"?

MCCLELLAN: With the publisher.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Mr. Osnos?

MCCLELLAN: That would include Mr. Osnos. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's reported that you received $75,000 as an advance to your book. Is that true?

MCCLELLAN: That is correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you're also aware that every book that sells means more money to you as well?

MCCLELLAN: I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're aware that every -- the more books you sell the more money goes to you, I presume.

MCCLELLAN: Yes. A small percentage goes to the author usually in situations --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it true that Karl Weber was the project editor?

MCCLELLAN: Yes. I worked with him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you aware before you worked with him that he had called President Bush a clearly horrible person and said "he's consciously manipulative and deceitful"?

MCCLELLAN: No, I was not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, in other words, someone who called the president a clearly horrible person helped you draft and edit the book, is that right?

MCCLELLAN: Actually, this was my book. I wrote this book. And he provided great help as an editor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, did he edit the book?

MCCLELLAN: He was an editor on the book, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. You write that you witnessed Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby meet in Mr. Rove's office behind closed doors and you infer that they were conspiring to mislead the grand jury looking into the Valerie Plame investigation at the time. Did you hear any portion of their conversation?

MCCLELLAN: No, sir, I did not. I say that in the book.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And so the speculation is to your part as to what they were saying?

MCCLELLAN: I thought full disclosure was the only way I could go. I said I was going to discuss everything I knew about the episode.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you were still speculating as to what you thought at they were saying.

MCCLELLAN: I said it was suspicious to me. I said, in the book, I said I do not know what they discussed behind closed doors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. They could have been talking about who knows, Supreme Court nominations at the time or anything else.

MCCLELLAN: Well, they could have been.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Thank you. And is it true that Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has admitted that he is the source of the Valerie Plame leak?

MCCLELLAN: Well, to Robert Noval but there are other reporters that that other information was revealed to prior to it being public and there was a report in the "Washington Post" by at least six reporters were told about her identity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wasn't that the first public leak?

MCCLELLAN: That was the first time it was published.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

MCCLELLAN: But it was revealed but here identity was revealed multiple times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was the first time -- correct. That's correct. That was the first time that her name was published.

MCCLELLAN: I'm sorry. I couldn't hear you with the buzzing. It's the first time that here name was published. Yes. I mean, I'd like to make the point -- could I finish?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Armitage has admitted that he was the source. Do you agree with that? Or do you question his --

MCCLELLAN: He was the initial source for Robert Novak. Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, Ari Fleischer also --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was the first time her name --

MCCLELLAN: Can I finish my response?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that was the first time her name --

MCCLELLAN: They also revealed her identity to other reporters prior to it being published.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. That was the first time her name was ever published was when the editorial appeared --

MCCLELLAN: Yes, as I point out in the book. That's correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. McClellan.

MCCLELLAN: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was a call for a journal vote. The chair recognizes the --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the problem?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, the problem is, the committee of jurisdiction on FISA, as I understand it FISA is --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a journal vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand, but could you inform the committee as to what the process is going to be and whether we're going to be available.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to cover, we're going to be on the floor and the hearing will be suspended.

UNIDENTIFIED : Will it there be an opportunity for members to be on the floor for the debate on the rule for FISA or just for FISA debate itself?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Not the rule, but the debate. You can use your own option, though. The chair recognizes the chairman of the Constitution Committee of Judiciary gentleman from New York, Jerry Nadler.

REP. JERRY NADLER (R), NEW YORK: Thank you. I'm going to ask a series of questions so try to keep the answers brief because I only got five minutes. Do you have any knowledge of whether prior to or after the leak of Ms. Wilson's covert identity either the vice president or the president declassified her covert status in order to have it leaked to reporters?

MCCLELLAN: No, I do not.

NADLER: And do you have any information on the role if any played by the vice president in the leaking of Ms. Wilson's identity?

MCCLELLAN: No, I don't have any direct knowledge in that.

NADLER: And do you have any idea why Vice President Cheney may have knowingly, indirectly or directly instructed you to publicly exonerate Mr. Libby?

MCCLELLAN: No, sir, I do not. I was not a party to that conversation with the President.

NADLER: Do you have any idea whether at the time he knew that Mr. Libby had in fact had been involved in the leak?

MCCLELLAN: I'm sorry.

NADLER: Do you have any idea whether when he gave that instruction that he knew at that time that Mr. Libby had in fact been involved in the leak?

MCCLELLAN: No, I do not know that.

NADLER: In any event, did you come to learn that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby had lied to you and that each of them was involved in the Plame leak?

MCCLELLAN: Yes, I did.

NADLER: Would you comment on that briefly, how you learned that?

MCCLELLAN: That was in -- well, first in July of 2005 when it was about to be reported in the media, I learned that Karl Rove had had revealed her identity to Matt Cooper of "Time" magazine. And then a short time after that it was Robert Novak. And then within the next few months, it was learned that Scooter Libby had had also revealed her identity to reporters.

NADLER: OK. Now, the President had promised the American people, stated publicly, when this first came out, that he was going to investigate internally, find out who had had leaked the information and that leak would no longer be in the administration because this was a terrible thing. Do you know what steps if any were taken by the White House to conduct an internal investigation into the leak?

MCCLELLAN: As far as I know, the White House counsel's office worked to provide information to the Justice Department that was gathered during the process of the investigation at their request. E-mails and things of that nature. But I don't know if any internal investigation.

NADLER: You don't know of any internal investigation?

MCCLELLAN: No.

NADLER: You don't know of any internal investigation to find out for the President so he could fire or do what he -

MCCLELLAN: My understanding is we weren't doing any of that.

NADLER: You weren't doing any of that. Now, the President commuted Mr. Libby's sentence. Now, this would seem -- well, do you regard this as in any way in violation of the President's pledge to find out all the information he could and make it public about this?

MCCLELLAN: Well, I certainly think that the President should have stuck by his word on the matter and I certainly view the commutation as it was special treatment and does undermine our system of justice in my view.

NADLER: But I'm not sure what you were saying in the first part. The President's commutation of Mr. Libby's sentence was somehow not standing by his word?

MCCLELLAN: Well, I don't know if that was not standing by his word. I don't know if he said anything specifically about a commutation. But he did say anyone that was involved in this would know and I said on his behalf would not be --

NADLER: OK. And do you think -- would you regard the President's commutation as -- do you think it's fair to infer from your knowledge that the President's commutation of Mr. Libby's, of the conviction or whatever it was, that his commutation was part of an effort to, if fact, assure that all the facts would not become public, part of a cover-up in fact?

MCCLELLAN: I do not know that. I do not make that claim and I do not have the information to know whether or not that was the thinking. I had already left the White House by the time he commuted Scooter Libby. But there were a lot of questions that it raised because of that action.

NADLER: OK. Switching subjects, in your book -- oh, and before I go to this last question. Let me, on behalf of some members of the committee, apologize to you for the aspersions as to your motives instead of asking you questions about the truth or evidence of what you wrote that we heard a few minutes ago, such character assassinations is no business of the committee.

MCCLELLAN: Thank you.

NADLER: In your book, Mr. McClellan, you state that the Iraq war was sold to the American people with a sophisticated political propaganda campaign that included overstating intelligence in Iraq, manipulating source of public opinion, downplaying the major reasons for going to war. As the President's former deputy and former chief press secretary, this is a very serious charge. Could you explain why you think that this was a political propaganda campaign as opposed to simply informing the American public as to what was going on?

MCCLELLAN: Well, it was a marketing campaign or a propaganda campaign. Whatever how you want to refer to it. What I talk about in the book is that we took this permanent campaign mentality that was used on other issues like social security or education reform and used it to take the nation to war and sold the nation on the premise that Iraq was a grave and gathering danger. We now know that it was not, that the case was overstated. It was over packaged in the way that the intelligence was used. That was something that --

NADLER: Over packaged in the way the intelligence was used, do you mean that they were declassifying only those portions of intelligence that seemed to indicate the threat and not those portions of the intelligence that downplayed the threat, we're not sure of this information.

MCCLELLAN: I think it was public record that they were ignoring caveats and ignoring contradictory intelligence, the implication and innuendo that was used to talk about the connection to Al Qaeda for instance is one example. The senate intelligence committee for the first time just released a report about how the intelligence was used.

NADLER: And therefore, misrepresenting the facts and misleading Congress and the American people?

MCCLELLAN: Yes. I think it was more to make the strongest possible case. And in doing so, they ignored caveats, they ignored contradictions -

NADLER: And mislead and misrepresent, therefore?

MCCLELLAN: At that effect, I do not think it was necessarily deliberate on the part of a group. Whether individuals were doing things intentionally or deliberately, I do not know. But I don't think there was a group sitting around trying to conspire to say, "let's mislead the American people." Instead, it was, how do we make the strongest possible case?

But when you're going to war, it is particularly troubling when you use that kind of mentality and you don't speak about the truth of the situation as best as you know them, including the indicatory intelligence, including the caveats and qualifications and including the consequences, the risk and the cost of going to war. And we did not do that.

NADLER: Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The chair recognizes the distinguished gentleman from North Carolina, a senior member of the committee Howard Coble.

REP. HOWARD COBLE (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. McClellan let me follow up on the war issue. I voted to dispatch troops to Iraq believing that Saddam Hussein was an international terrorist, which I still believe. I furthermore believe that there weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or they had the capability of developing same, which I still believe. I believe that a post-entry strategy had been formulated. I'm not sure I believe that now. Was there a post-entry strategy --

MCCLELLAN: Sorry, post? What strategy, sir?

COBLE: Post-entry strategy, after we go in and take him out, was there any sort of plan whereby a, b, c was to be followed?

MCCLELLAN: Well, I think that the public record shows there were a lot of problems with the post-invasion planning and preparation. That was not something I was directly involved in, certainly from a communications stand point I was but not from the planning standpoint..

COBLE: That has plagued me from day one. I'm still uneasy about that. But now, let's shift gears to Scooter Libby. I know we're on a short time, Mr. Chairman. Your book, Mr. McClellan includes many recollections from your experiences working in the White House during this time.

I had some problems whether or not Scooter Libby should have been prosecuted. I still have some doubts about that. But what was your reaction, Mr. McClellan when you learned that former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage revealed the identity of Mrs. Valerie Plame- Wilson and do you think that more should have been done to hold Mr. Armitage accountable?

MCCLELLAN: Well, I can't speak directly to whether or nor he should have been held accountable. I don't know the facts of why he revealed her name other than what has been reported during the trial and during the investigation publicly and what he has stated publicly since that time. Obviously, I think that all of the information should have been put out as quickly and as soon as possible about exactly what occurred and when it occurred, and maybe we wouldn't have ended up where we did.

But I think that the problem here is that this White House promised or assured the American people that at some point when this was behind us they would talk publicly about it. And they have refused to. And that's why I think more than any other reason we are here today and the suspicion still remains.

COBLE: But as to the post-entry strategy, you really don't have your hands around that.

MCCLELLAN: Well, I can't speak specifically to all the planning there because that was done without me being in those discussions.

COBLE: That has plagued me, and I've said so publicly. I give it back, Mr. Chairman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Members of the committee, we do have three votes on the journal ordering the question on the room --

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: I just wanted to give you a bit of a sense of what is happening there with Scott McClellan testifying before the House Judiciary Committee. We see John Conyers there, the chairman. We also heard from Lamar Smith, a ranking member from Texas, some heated questioning there, and several others. That will continue, not quite sure how long but of course we will be dipping in and out of that when things get interesting.

For now, though, we are going to take a quick break. And we'll be back right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And new this morning, we've learned about plans for the first joint campaign appearance by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. They will hit the trail together next week. The campaigning next Friday will follow a Thursday Democratic fund-raiser. It will mark their first public appearance together since Clinton ended her presidential bid. More details now on plans on Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to campaign together.

Suzanne Malveaux, live from Washington. Suzanne, good morning.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Tony.

Some are already calling it the Obama-Clinton unity tour. But they're not yet singing "Kumbaya," but this is a significant symbolic move on both of the campaigns' parts. Both of them will be seen together campaigning together for the first time a week from today. We don't have details in terms of exactly when and how this is going to take place. But this is really kind of the result of both of these camps over the last couple of weeks trying to merge their teams.

We've seen over the last week or so Barack Obama reaching out to female voters, to union workers, to Hispanics, people who really voted in Clinton's camp and really showed her a great deal of support. He's been showing quite a bit of deference towards her. He's been very complimentary on the trail. This is something that Hillary Clinton came to terms with two weeks ago, four days after he actually won the nomination.

Now, speaking with people who are familiar with their thinking on both sides, they say that the two have not exactly kissed and made up at this point, but this is more about political accommodation. Barack Obama needs her supporters, needs those votes. There is a sense in his camp that ultimately he will convert those folks and that he will have them in his corner.

As for Hillary Clinton, people look at this and they say, look at her political future. She is going to need to accommodate here. She is going to need to support Barack Obama, make sure that there's a Democrat in the White House.

The sticking point here, Tony, that you should know, despite the fact these two will be appearing together, it's still over the money issue. It's over her debt. How is she going to pay off that debt? How much of the Obama folks are going to be willing to contribute? They have not come up with a dollar figure, and that is something that is still frustrating to Hillary Clinton and some of her biggest supporters. That is still being worked out behind the scenes but symbolically, very important to see both of these two coming together a week from today saying, look, this is the team. These are the people we want to see Barack Obama in the White House.

HARRIS: I wonder if that issue of the Clinton debt had anything to do with Barack Obama's decision to opt out of public financing for the general election. Just a thought.

MALVEAUX: Well, actually, it's funny that you mention that because I was speaking with a couple of people today who kind of put it all into context. And they said one of the reasons why they want to do that is they want to amass as much cash as possible here because in contributing, actually holding fund-raisers for Hillary Clinton, to pay off her debt, there are still some people in Obama's camp, who feel like, hey we don't want to do that because of a couple of things.

They say, you sent out flyers, you paid for flyers that were against Barack Obama, that attacked him, that were not fair. Other people say, you spent money on the campaign after Barack Obama essentially won the nomination. So there's frustration on their side, a lot of people -- they don't necessarily want to turn over that money to Hillary Clinton. So they want to amass as much cash as possible before they actually start to fund-raise and do that for her.

HARRIS: Got you. Suzanne Malveaux in Washington for us. Good to see you, Suzanne. Thanks.

Barack Obama focusing on the economy this hour in Chicago. He is holding a discussion with several Democratic governors. The meeting also showing off party unity. It comes a day after Obama announced that he would not accept public financing for his general election campaign.

COLLINS: Now to the Midwest floods. The power of the Mississippi, the powerlessness of those who live near it. Floodwaters have burst through at least four levees in Lincoln County, Missouri. Officials there are bracing for even more to fail later on today. In all, about 30 levees are now considered at risk. That's in addition to the 20 levees that have already been swamped. And that offers a macabre twist. The floodwaters spilling past all of those levees is actually lowering river levels down south. Now there are predictions that flooding downstream will not be as bad as initially feared.

Let's take a look at the numbers, though. The flooding has killed at least 24 people and injured 148. Tens of thousands of people in six different states have fled their homes. Millions of acres of farmland have been swamped. Winfield, Missouri, this time yesterday we showed you the collapse of one levee there. More has since failed nearby and now even more are at risk.

CNN's Reynolds Wolf is joining us now from Winfield with the very latest. Looks like a whole lot of sandbagging going on behind you, Reynolds. REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. Sandbagging big- time. They have been at it all the morning. They expect to be at it through the rest of the day and into the afternoon and evening. I'd like to take a moment and talk to you about this.

A construction pile on, a traffic pilon. Things that people would normally would hate but in a situation like this it becomes a very useful tool. What you do, you cut off the end of it and this pilon becomes a funnel. And that's what they've been using right here. we got a couple of hard working young men here, this happens to be Chad. Chad is a center over at Howell Central High School on the football team and his buddy right there. He is offensive lineman.

We're talking about Ryan, Ryan is over there. Normally Chad would be snapping a ball to a quarterback. But this time he's actually handing a shovel rather a shovelful of sand to an offensive tackle, which is a dangerous thing to do with those kinds of hands.

Also, as a side note, these guys are supposed to be putting in just about three shovelfuls of sand each time to make it more manageable for people. People of all ages, they could pick these up. These are a lot heavier than three shovelfuls of sand. I have a feeling they've been shoveling more than they should. But I'm telling you these efforts, heavy or not, are what they'll be doing through the rest of the day and through the afternoon and as I said the evening.'

Looks like the biggest threat as we mentioned is gone, but there's still the possibility. We could see some rushing water in many places that will be affecting communities all around parts of Missouri, Illinois and farther downstream south of St. Louis. That is certainly a tremendous concern for a lot of people. And trust me, as long as that concern is around, you're going to see people like Chad doing what he's doing. Throw another shovelful in there, man. And probably need a bag before we do that. So, anyways.

COLLINS: Reynolds, I've got to say, you know, this is such a good look at actually what takes place when you're making a sandbag. It just looks so darn tedious and like such a small obstacle. Obviously, you need thousands and thousands of them.

WOLF: Oh, absolutely. You know, the mindset -- I actually heard a guy over in Quincy, Illinois, when we're pulling up sandbags over there and he say he has this mindset that for each drop of water you have one drop of sand, one grain of sand. It's going to take an awful lot to hold back the waters of the Mississippi River especially in a flood stage like this.

You know, even though it's not forecast to be as bad as originally thought, we're still talking about a severe flood for many people. So, there's still a lot of concern here. As long as that's going to be an issue, these guys is going to keep shoveling, keep filling sandbags and keep moving them out.

Heidi, it's going to be an all-day operation here, and this is a scene that's been playing up and down this river for hundreds of miles. It's a great scene, a great testament to people coming together in a time of need. It's a great thing to see. Let's wrap up it up and send it back to you.

COLLINS: All right. Reynolds Wolf for us in Winfield there. They definitely have their work cut out for them. Thank you, Reynolds.

HARRIS: The floodwaters that have pushed past levees have, in effect, created new rivers and new dangers. Frantic residents are now shoring up levees that had appeared safe just days ago.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Clarksville, Missouri. And Ed, good morning to you. What's the view from Clarksville?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Clarksville. There you go. We're taking our view this time from on top of the sandbag. And this is really the last line of defense between the city of Clarksville and the Mississippi River. We're just talking to one of gentlemen who lives in this home right here. His name is David Wright. He was rather stressed when we first got here this morning. We just saw him a short while ago. And from what he's seen, he's starting to smile.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID WRIGHT, CLARKSVILLE RESIDENT: A whole lot of water. Right now it's really just to see it going down a little bit, it gives us a lot of relief. A lot of pressure off of us. Mental stress and all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAVANDERA: And Tony, you know, Clarksville is interesting because, as we've talked so much about other cities and the problems with levees, Clarksville doesn't have a levee. And that's why you've seen this wall and around here the residents have been looking at the water levels throughout the day and throughout the morning.

And if you look out here at the power pole out there, you can see the water level mark. When we got here this morning, I think it was just a little bit below that. It was a little dark when we got out here this morning. But you can see, and that's one of the reasons people like David Wright is smiling here this morning, seeing that water level come down.

Of course, unfortunately, they realize that this is coming at the cost of their friends and neighbors downstream where Reynolds Wolf is in Winfield and that's causing problems for them. But for a city that doesn't have a levee and has spent a great deal of time, this is just a fraction of what has going on in this city. Actually, if you look back over this way, you can see the pile of sand over here.

HARRIS: Yes.

LAVANDERA: If you turn around the corner here, Tony, there are tons and tons of heavy equipment, pumps that have been brought in. It's impossible for us to get over there and show you a live picture just because of the heavy machinery. We'd be totally in the way. But this is just a fraction of what's been going on in the city for the past few days.

HARRIS: Hey, Ed. Just a quick question. We see that the water levels are going down but are the people of Clarksville out of danger? I'm asking I guess about a long-range forecast.

LAVANDERA: Right. I think they feel like -- or they're starting to feel like they are. They do realize that, you know, it's still a little bit -- a situation where things can change, but they really feel like they've won this battle and essentially may have won the war at this point.

HARRIS: OK. Ed Lavandera, let's hope so, for us in Clarksville, Missouri this morning. Ed, good to see you. Thank you.

COLLINS: Knowledge is power. It can also mean financial security. Gerri Willis answers your money questions coming up in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Retirement savings and credit scores. What you know can make all the difference. Personal finance editor Gerri Willis. There she is. She's here to answer our questions.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Good morning.

HARRIS: Hey, Gerri. I looked ahead. These are really some good questions today.

WILLIS: They are good questions.

HARRIS: You want to dive in here?

WILLIS: Yes. Let's go.

HARRIS: All right. Kerry in Tucson writes, "We have $20,000 in extra cash and no debt except a reasonable mortgage. We are 40-years- old. We save $150 a month for retirement each. What would be a good investment for this extra cash, or should we just leave it in our savings?

WILLIS: Well, Kerry, you know, first of all, congrats on saving some extra dough. But I have to say, you know, how much I like a bargain, Tony. I really love bargains. And the Dow right now, Dow industrial average down now 9.5 percent this year, stocks are on sale.

Now is the time to invest in the stock market, think about getting an index fund, putting a little money in the market that you're going to leave there for a while. It can't be something that you're going to pull out in two to three months and also think about having savings for the emergency, three to six months of living expenses. That can stay in a savings account where you can get at it quickly if you need to. Again, if you've got a longer time horizon, stocks are great place to go right now because they're down.

HARRIS: All right. I love that idea about emergency funds. I'm so glad you remind us of that.

Ellen in Virginia has a question for you, Gerri. "What is worse on a credit score: a debt being charged off or settling for less than what is owed?" What do you think?

WILLIS: Well, Ellen, they're both bad, I have to tell you.

HARRIS: Yes.

WILLIS: You know, it looks the same to your credit score if you have a charge-off or if you settle for less than you owe. However, you'll be much better off if you negotiate with your creditor ...

HARRIS: That's right.

WILLIS: ...instead of having a debt charged off. That's because in a charge-off, look, you still owe them money and can been hounded by a debt collection agency. If the debt is large enough, say a couple of thousand dollars, you can also be sued and your wages can be what they call garnished, which means taken away.

HARRIS: Yes, exactly.

Hey, I love this question from Becky. Becky writes, oh, Gerri, "At my last job, I was in their retirement program. Since I am no longer there and cannot contribute to it, what would be the best way to handle it? It is about $26,000."

WILLIS: Wow, nice.

HARRIS: Yes.

WILLIS: OK, well, look, the best thing you can do is roll over your retirement funds into your new employer's plan. Make sure you do the direct rollover. We talk about that all the time so you don't pay taxes. You also have the option of transferring the money into an IRA.

Now, this can be a good thing if your new employer doesn't have a retirement program or doesn't have a company match or if you find that your old employer's plan meets your investment needs, you can always just keep it there. Just don't forget it. It's really better to have it where you can watch it and manage it.

HARRIS: Yes, we got another friend who wants to remain anonymous who has a pretty good question for you here, Gerri. "I am watching CNN as I do every day ..."

WILLIS: Good.

HARRIS: Ding, ding, ding, ding. "But I could not write down the Web sites and phone number for free credit checking from TransUnion. Can you help, please?"

WILLIS: Oh, you know, this goes back to the story we did just the other day. HARRIS: Yes.

WILLIS: And that was about credit bureau TransUnion recently settling a class action lawsuit. Something in it for you. If you opened up a credit line in the past 21 years, you can get free credit monitoring. Now, if you want to sign up, make sure you call 866-416- 3470 or you can go to the Web site, listclassaction.com. So, that's how you do that.

And of course, if you have any other questions or want to share a tip with us, send us an e-mail to "Top Tips" at CNN.com. We love hearing from you.

HARRIS: And very quickly, give us a bit of a preview of what's ahead noon Eastern on that hot, hot, hot show "ISSUE #1."

WILLIS: All right, it's jam packed today, OK. We're looking at organic food and how home-grown food is taking off across the country ...

HARRIS: Absolutely.

WILLIS: ...and why some scientists think the answer for some of your energy problems could be in bugs.

HARRIS: OK.

WILLIS: Seriously, seriously.

HARRIS: That's the tease. All right, OK.

WILLIS: Noon Eastern.

HARRIS: I'll take your word for it. I believe ...

WILLIS: We'll tell you all about it.

HARRIS: ...I believe everything you say to us here, Gerri. Good to see you. See you again at noon.

WILLIS: All right.

COLLINS: Barack Obama focussing on the economy this hour in Chicago. Some live pictures for you there of him at the podium holding a discussion with several Democratic governors.

Right now, let's go ahead and listen for just a moment.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ...got a badly drafted piece of legislation, you're the ones who have to live with it. And as a consequence, you end up spending less time posturing and trying to score ideological points and more time trying to govern.

We need that same attitude and that same approach in Washington, so I'm very much looking forward to not only this discussion, but I'm looking forward to being a partner with you in the years to come to make sure that we strengthen America.

So with that, what I'd like to do is to have each governor introduce themselves, go around the table, and if you can make some brief remarks ...

COLLINS: All right, just a little bit of flavor there of Barack Obama meeting with Democratic governors in Chicago.

Too scared to go home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: How much damage do you have right now?

JESSICA RHODES (ph), FLOOD VICTIM: I don't know. I don't want to go all the way down there.

TUCHMAN: Are you scared to look?

RHODES: Yes, I'll break down crying. I don't want to look. I don't want to see it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Understandable. Floodwaters rise along the Mississippi.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: The Midwest floods, in some areas the bad gets even worse. This time yesterday, we showed you the collapse of a levee in Lincoln County, Missouri. Well, that has set off a domino effect if you will. Rising floodwaters have caused several more levees to fail. Lincoln County officials believe even more will likely be swamped before the day is over.

That offers new hope downstream, if you can believe it. The floodwaters spilling past all those levees is actually lowering river levels to the south. Now, it appears the flooding downstream will not be as bad as initially feared. A little bit of good news there.

But, working and worrying in Winfield, Missouri. Volunteers have stacked sandbags and now hope a secondary levee holds. CNN's Gary Tuchman is there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TUCHMAN (voice-over): In Winfield, Missouri, fear is building along with the floodwater. Three hours earlier, there was no water on the street. Now, it's flowing in, many houses are starting to get submerged.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of these houses are toast. TUCHMAN: Several different levees in this area north of St. Louis have failed in spectacular fashion. And you can see the water starting to roll down the street. Jessica Rhodes is the mother of a toddler and has another on the way.

(on camera): Where's your house?

RHODES: The white one on the right.

TUCHMAN: So, your house is down there?

RHODES: Yes.

TUCHMAN: So, your house is already in the water?

RHODES: Yes.

TUCHMAN: Wow. How much damage do you have right now?

RHODES: I don't know. I didn't walk all the way down there.

TUCHMAN: Are you scared to look?

RHODES: Yes. I'll break down crying. I don't want to look. I don't want to see it.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): There is another major levee that has not failed yet, but all bets are off if it does. National Guard members feverishly spent the day piling sandbags on the levee. The Mississippi River is on the right, Winfield is on the left.

JEFFREY WESTMORELAND, NATIONAL GUARD: It feels good to be out here helping the people, help save a town.

TUCHMAN (on camera): The Mississippi River is about three miles behind me, but if this water goes even one-tenth of a mile farther this way, an entire neighborhood will be under the floodwaters.

(voice-over): Volunteers from throughout the Midwest are filling hundreds of thousands of sandbags to help save towns like Winfield.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got an e-mail and it said that they need help sandbagging, so we just came down here.

TUCHMAN: The river may stay at peak levels through next Wednesday, so the worst is likely still to come.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you ain't scared, you're a fool.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Boy, let's get to Bonnie Schneider in the severe weather center. And Bonnie, if you would, explain that map and what looks like rain there in the St. Louis area and certainly that means that we're focusing again on the Mississippi. BONNIE SCHNEIDER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's right. Any rain doesn't help matters, but the good news is, as you look at this map, you'll see the lighter showers are to the north of St. Louis while the stronger storms are to the south. Right now, we're getting some stronger storms on the way into Little Rock, Arkansas. We have a live picture to show you of kind of overcast skies there and that's why we're looking for some stormy conditions.

But as we come back to areas in the Mississippi, what we're watching for here is the continued threat of flooding. In fact, as we take a look at our next graphic, what you'll be finding is we're watching for the threat for flooding all up and down the Mississippi River. Let's move on to Google Earth and we can show that we're looking at moderate to major flooding all along the Mississippi. In fact, you can see it to the south as well. That's where we're going to be zooming in.

We had three levee breaks. You saw a report from Gary Tuchman in Winfield. That was a really strong one that occurred yesterday, and the reason you can see that the threat for flooding continues is everyone that's east of this region, east of Highway 79, had to quickly move to the west because the water got so high so fast.

That's not the only levee break in this one county, Lincoln County, Missouri. To the north of that area, we even had a larger levee break. How large? Forty feet wide. That's a major break. And it affected the community of Foley, where more people also had to move to higher ground moving from east to west.

And as we look towards Elsbury, we also had unfortunately another levee break in this region as well, and this one also pretty wide, about four feet wide. And looking at it as a whole, you can see that we do have three levee breaks that were affecting three different areas in and around this region.

So, as we come back to our next graphic now, we put this into motion. What we're looking at is we're looking at more rain coming through this region and we're going to be watching for the chance for possibly a light amount of accumulation, but overall, the rain coming down is not the problem. What's happening now is really the rain that's coming -- the water that's coming downstream. So, we'll be watching for that as well.

Back to you.

HARRIS: OK, Bonnie, appreciate it. Thank you.

COLLINS: In Iowa though where floodwaters are pulling back, life does go on. Allow us to introduce Mr. and Mrs. Curtis White (ph). The groom spent the past week fighting floods with the Iowa Army National Guard and that delayed their original wedding day, but also created an opportunity. Their walk down the aisle came on a highway bridge that was closed down by the floods. They were surrounded by family, friends and the floodwaters that engulfed the downtown Columbus Junction. HARRIS: You know, oil prices actually fell by almost $5 yesterday. This one-day energy fix came thanks to an increase in the price of gas in China. But many are saying this won't be a long-term fix.

CNNmoney.com's Poppy Harlow has our "Energy Fix" from New York. Good Friday to you, Poppy.

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Tony.

Well, you know, looking at oil prices today, it doesn't look like that decline we saw yesterday is here to stay. I'll get to that in a minute, but unlike here in the U.S. where the market determines the price of gas and oil, the Chinese government sets gas prices. And yesterday, the government called for a 17 percent increase in that price.

Worldwide oil prices fell on that news as you mentioned, people believing the higher prices would slow demand dramatically one of the fastest growing economies in the world, but you know, some analysts say that just may not be the case, Tony.

Gas prices in China have been flat since November as the Chinese government has feared that any move would spoke already soaring inflation in their country. And as a result, refineries have been losing money and drivers there have been getting a pretty good deal. Now even with yesterday's price increase, the Chinese are paying just a little more than $3 a gallon.

I wish we were paying that here.

HARRIS: Boy.

HARLOW: But the higher prices could actually spark more demand because it will encourage refineries to produce more. And with 1.3 billion Chinese seeking -- seeing really their standard of living improving, there is a lot of pent-up demand for energy. For the first time ever, China imported gas last month rather than refining it themselves, Tony. Take a look at that chart on the screen. Just a surge in demand since about 2000.

HARRIS: Boy, and Poppy, at the same time, Americans, I mean, clearly now, cutting back.

HARLOW: They're clearly cutting back. It was interesting, this morning, I talked to the CEO of Zipcar. We'll bring you that next week. And he said, you know, people are essentially renting our cars because they don't want to own cars, they don't want to drive ...

HARRIS: Yes.

HARLOW: ...they don't want to pay those record prices. And a new report out today from Cambridge Energy says demand for gas in this country will fall in 2008 for the first time in 17 years. And that report says 2007 will mark a peak year for U.S. gas consumption. We use a lot of gas here, so you'd think any demand decrease would ease prices.

But, you know, Tony, if the demand is just replaced by increasing demand overseas, it really may not do us any good. So far, there are really few signs that demand is weakening in the developing world, places like India and elsewhere.

HARRIS: Yes.

HARLOW: And you know, yesterday's oil price fall, it looks right now like it was just a blip on the radar. As you said, oil is back up $4 today after a large scale Israeli military exercise raised concerns about tension between Israel and Iran. Lots of details on that, all the "Energy Fix" information you need on our site, you see it right there at the bottom of your screen -- Tony?

HARRIS: Well done. All right, Poppy, good to see you. Thank you.

HARLOW: You too.

COLLINS: Tired of that BlackBerry going off off hours? Here's one option.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holy crap.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Be careful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it's really good.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SR. U.N. CORRESPONDENT: The world's strongest man in the United States cannot destroy this BlackBerry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: See, they're pretty much indestructible. Another option though? You could sue your boss.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: So, it turns out it's an alliance not a merger for two of the country's biggest airlines. Stephanie Elam is on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange now with more.

So, what's the deal here, Stephanie?

(BUSINESS HEADLINES)

HARRIS: I want to show you some pretty dramatic pictures right now out of Florida. And Christian (ph), if you would just sort of give me the information as you're getting it and I'll share it with the folks at home. We just want to get the pictures on to you as quickly as we can because it's pretty dramatic. What a scene here unfolding. Thanks, Christian. Marine and fire responding now to this fire. This is Haulover Beach in Florida. And as you can see, the pictures being provided by our affiliate WPLG there in Miami. And this is Miami Beach, Florida. This restaurant that is on fire here, our understanding is -- no, go ahead, Heidi. You've got some information?

COLLINS: Well, I believe this -- I know that's Old Salty's Restaurant, at least that's what we are learning from our affiliates there. Pretty famous place. If you've been there to the area, Miami Beach, it's been there awhile, and a lot of people talk about Old Salty's. So, if this is a favorite of yours, you're probably pretty sad to these flames because it does, like you said, Tony, look really intense. They're having to fight it from all different angles.

So yes, look it. There's still all kinds of flames there on the bottom floor. Pretty much of a bummer. Once again, this is 18th Street and Collins Avenue. Green and fire rescues, so I didn't really see -- I don't know if you did, Tony, if they were fighting it from the water there. I imagine some of the fire boats might be in the area. But I don't know, that does not look good.

HARRIS: It doesn't look good.

All right, why don't we do this. Just keep an eye on that situation, try to get you an update. Some of the information indicating no one in the restaurant at the time. But we just need to double check that. And we'll keep an eye on this and an eye on the pictures as well and bring you an update as we get more information.

We're going to take a break and some news for BlackBerry users coming up. You are in the -- please, yes.

COLLINS: I'm dying over here.

HARRIS: You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Want to quickly get you back out to the situation there in Miami Beach because we had originally thought through some of the information that was coming in from our affiliates that this was Old Salty's Restaurant that's on fire. You know the area, it's 18th Street and Collins Avenue.

And again, if you do know the area, you know that's not where Old Salty's is. It's actually Solo's on the Bay Restaurant. If you are someone who frequents that, then these pictures will be disturbing to you because it does not look good. All kinds of firefighters trying to control the flames there. We can actually still see some flames as you see in that closer up shot.

Once again, these pictures coming in to us from WPLG in Miami Beach. Solo's on the Bay Restaurant is on fire.

Want to get this other story out to you as well. News for BlackBerry users. We're going to get to that coming up here in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)